Small Business Marketing Blog

Grammar Mistakes Can Ruin Your Content Marketing

Grammar Mistakes

I must be getting more sensitive to bad grammar in blog posts, email newsletters and other types of content marketing. These errors glare out from the content and totally distract me from the topic of interest. The sad truth is that these grammar mistakes are found in the material of some of the top content marketing authors. Does this mean that the misuse of punctuation, capitalization and spelling is accepted in our writing?

Informal writing with a casual tone is appropriate for many of our content marketing products such as blogging and social media. However, using this less formal writing style sometimes has us bending the grammar rules. But, no matter how lenient the rules have become, there are some grammar mistakes that are never appropriate and can make your content appear sloppy. That is not an image a professional with an expert reputation wants to project. And although it is not definitive with respect to Google, why take the chance that poor grammar and typos may affect how our content is ranked.

Common grammar mistakes

Apostrophe misuses

An apostrophe is used to show possession or contraction.  Examples:

  • Use an apostrophe after a noun to make it possessive. Read this author’s work on content marketing.
  • Use an apostrophe to create a contraction. It’s highly possible that our content has gone viral.
  • Never use an apostrophe to make a noun plural as in “I have two cat’s”.

Excessive use of commas or semicolons

Commas and semicolons have a purpose in writing, but people have begun to overuse both in the wrong places.

It appears that writers put commas into sentences where they would pause while speaking. Sometimes that may be correct but often times not. Check out the many grammar rules for using commas correctly in your writing.

Semicolons are often used in place of commas. If you simplify your writing, you may never need to use a semicolon, but there are cases when semicolons are useful at making your writing clearer and controlling the flow.

Capitalization mistakes

People seem to be a bit “cap happy” in their writing these days. Capitalizing words should not be a random act. There are rules that can help you understand when and when not to hit the shift key.

You should always capitalize:

  • The first word in a sentence
  • Titles of books, articles, blog posts and music
  • Days, months and holidays
  • Seasons when they are in a title, not in general writing such as “this winter has been harsh”
  • Initials and acronyms
  • The pronoun “I”
  • Names of places, nationalities, languages and ethnic groups
  • Trademarks and brand names
  • Words used as proper names but not when used in general – “I saw Uncle Joe the other day. I have not heard from my uncle recently.”
  • Titles preceding a name but not those that follow or are used as general words – President Brown of ABC company; Joe Brown, president of ABC company; The president called to discuss his budget today.

What about capitalization in bullet points? There are several views on the use of punctuation and capitalization for bullets. Here is my take on the rules:

  • Start each bullet point with a capital letter for easier reading.
  • Do not capitalize every word in the bullet unless the words are proper names.
  • Be consistent in your sentence structure and punctuation – start all bullets with nouns or verbs and leave off the punctuation if the bullets are not complete sentences.

Where it really becomes confusing is in reference to departments, services or expertise.

  • Debra works in the Marketing Department
  • Debra’s specialty is marketing
  • Debra works in Marketing
  • Do you know some marketing people who can help in this project?

Finally a bulleted list of services:

  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Mergers and acquisitions

Do not mistake bulleted lists for website navigation with all words capitalized as a normal bulleted list. Most website navigation is generated from page titles, for which capitalization of each word is correct.

Common spelling mistakes

  • It’s vs. its – “It’s” is a contraction for it is. Its is a possessive pronoun. Example: It’s confusing to read a sentence with bad grammar because it keeps the reader from understanding its meaning. When unsure which to use, say “it is” instead. If the sentence makes sense, the contraction is correct.
  • You’re vs. your – “You’re” is a contraction for you are. Your is a possessive pronoun. You’re not correct if you write “your not correct”. You better go back and proofread your content.
  • Affect vs. effect – Affect is a verb. Your behavior affects those around you. The effect of your behavior is that people are annoyed.
  • There, their and they’re – “There” denotes a place. Let’s go there tonight. “Their” is possessive for more than one person. Their behavior did not make sense to me. “They’re” is a contraction of the words they are. They’re having a lot of fun.
  • Then vs. than – “Than” is used when comparing. “Then” is used in all other cases.
  • Me, myself and I – “Send your report to myself” makes me want to scream. Send your report to me. You wouldn’t say, “Send your report to I”, so never say “Send your report to Joe and I”. When in doubt, take the other person’s name out of the sentence and see if it still sounds correct. Myself has minimal use other than “I thought to myself, grammar is complex”.

One final hot button

If you use WordPress, check with your web designer for how to best use the formatting that is set up in your theme. Most themes have styled bullets, headings and font types, weights and sizes that guarantee a consistent look. Do not randomly change the font family, size or color throughout your website as it disrupts your brand. So although this is not grammar and typos, a blog post that has a different font than the rest of your site, or different fonts scattered throughout the post itself, is a distraction that affects your brand.

How to get help

English grammar is complex. If you need some help writing error free content, there are tools available that can proofread and help you output quality content. In addition, there are plenty of blogs on grammar, spelling and capitalization that can help answer your questions.

What grammar mistakes do you find most annoying?

Other items of interest:



10 Responses to Grammar Mistakes Can Ruin Your Content Marketing

  1. Andrea Funk April 20, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    I wonder if Word might be causing some issues with “your” and “you’re”. It frequently tells me to change “your” to “you’re.” For example:

    “…without shirking your other responsibilities.”

    Word says that this is wrong and that “your” should be “you’re”. But the sentence makes no sense if you say “…without shirking you are other responsibilities.”

    Have you notices this when you write in Word?

    • Kavita April 15, 2016 at 5:40 am #

      Yes, Andrea. I have also noticed Word prompting me to change ‘your’ to ‘you’re’ where it is not required.

  2. Delores Lyon March 25, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea that spelling errors could be so detrimental to your marketing. I’ll definitely have to take a look at our marketing team and make sure everything is written well. Hopefully I don’t have to fire anyone for making spelling errors.

  3. Muhammad Mairaj August 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    Excellent blog which contains very useful information regarding grammatical mistakes. In article writing it plays a vital role without having grip on grammar you cannot satisfied the readers of your blog. And how nicely you share some useful tips which is very helpful in content writing.

    Thanks again for sharing such an excellent post.

    • Debra Murphy August 19, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      You’re welcome Muhammad – appreciate the kind words.

  4. Dermot Gilley June 27, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    May I add “principal and principle”, “affect/effect” and a lot more gut-wrenching mistakes and mis-attributions. Since the average US citizen seems to read at an eighth-grade level though, the writing level is probably even lower. And since in blogging many people don’t take their time as they misunderstand the “content is king” adage to mean quantity, not (first and foremost) quality, even writers who know better commit these mistakes. And since affect/effect etc. are not picked up by spell-checkers (both being valid words), they feel secure in their writing even.

  5. Monu Alagh June 27, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Informative blog. I agree with it. Writing that is poorly punctuated and/or contains grammatical errors is difficult to read and sometimes impossible to understand. If the reader has to go back and re-read a sentence several times because they are not quite sure what it means, it spoils their reading experience and they are quite likely to misunderstand the point or even to give up and not read any further.Thanks for sharing.:-)

  6. Jawad Zaib April 26, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Nice tips for those are not concentrating more on their grammar while writing contents for their on-line business and other marketing stuff thanks for this nice article sharing….

  7. Ravi Chahar April 14, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    It is important for the blogger to handle the quality of the blog if he/she wants to get success in the field of blogging. Many bloggers forget to care about spelling and grammar mistakes which can harm their blog at a greater extent. A fair and clear content with no grammar mistake always engage readers to read more and more posts at that particular blog. There will build a reputation or we can say the brand extension by which blog popularity will reach to its peak. There may be many famous blogs but if they have mistakes in their content then readers will avoid to visit at them. You have brought this stuff into light. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Dipraj April 12, 2014 at 2:59 am #

    Grammar is an important part of an article, if you don’t know it don’t try at least as per as my belief what’s yours?????

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